Cape Town - A multimillion-rand Constantia mansion previously owned by disgraced UK businessman Mark Thatcher could soon get a major revamp, courtesy of the Guptas.
The 8105m² property, surrounded by a 2.13m wall equipped with CCTV cameras, is owned by Islandsite Investments 180, which is part of the controversial Gupta family’s extensive South African business empire.
Until early 2005 it was the home of UK businessman Thatcher, son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
Thatcher was arrested at the house in August 2004 over links to a failed coup in Equatorial Guinea.
His arrest caused a media storm, with the world’s press camped outside his house for days.
In January 2005 Thatcher pleaded guilty under a plea bargain in a Cape Town court to charges linked to the coup plot.
Mark Thatcher leaves his Constantia house with the Scorpions in August 2004. File picture: Andrew Ingram
He was fined R3 million and received a four-year suspended prison sentence.
He admitted to “unwittingly” financing the attempted coup, which failed after a group of mercenaries was arrested.
After the trial ended Thatcher returned to London to stay with his mother.
According to deeds office records, the Guptas purchased the house in February 2005, a few weeks after the court case ended.
They bought the lavish property, which includes an eight-bedroom thatched house, a swimming pool, a wine cellar and a lapa, for R17 million.
Shares in Islandsite Investments 180, which owns the erf, are split equally between Rajesh, Atul and Chetali Gupta.
Earlier this year, Islandsite submitted a request to the Cape Town City Council to significantly upgrade the property.
According to a municipal notice, Islandsite 180 applied for permission to build another dwelling on the property.
The title deed provides for a single dwelling.
The height of the second proposed dwelling is given as 7.46m.
The family also wants to increase the maximum floor space of all the buildings by 496m², from 1 500m² to 1956m², and change the layout of the lapa.
Gupta family spokesman Gary Naidoo did not respond to email and SMS queries about who is, or will be, living there.
Residents of the upmarket suburb this week recalled the Thatcher drama, but said they did not want to speak about who lived on the property now.
Islandsite Investments 180 has significant property holdings throughout South Africa including two Cape Town city centre apartments with a combined value of R9m, according to the city’s latest property valuation register.
It is also listed as the owner of three Johannesburg properties which form the so-called Gupta “compound” in Saxonwold.
These were purchased in 2005 for a total of R30m.
The company also owns four properties in Midrand and a property in La Lucia, Durban.
Founded in 2002, Investments 180 long had two of the three Gupta brothers, Atul and Rajesh, as directors.
In April, however, following what the family called “sustained political attacks on our family and our businesses” all three Gupta brothers resigned from the directorships of their South African companies.
Records show this included Islandsite 180.
They were replaced as directors at this company by close associates, including newly appointed chief executive of Oakbay Resources Ronica Ragavan and business partner Ashu Chawla.
Since the furore over Nhlanhla Nene’s axing as finance minister in December, the Guptas have withdrawn from public life.
They no longer host press briefings or attend public events.
In March they denied media reports they would relocate to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, with Naidoo calling the claims “categorically untrue”.
Since then rumours have swirled about where they are.
While the Gupta family is seldom out of the news today, when they purchased the property in 2005 it was Thatcher who the media focused on.
As the Cape Argus reported at the time of the purchase, the Guptas were then known principally for Sahara computers and cricket sponsorships, including naming rights for Newlands.